Why Representation Matters

Throughout Hollywood and general movie making history, representation has played a major role in creating ground-breaking cinematic value. Audiences love seeing old tales of time and popular books come to life. It's important that the movie crew working on recreating said book or tale meets most of the criteria presented within the stories themselves in order to get that target audience. However, most of the time the most important detail of it all is overlooked.

Fanatics could wait for months and months or even years looking out for a movie said to come out based on their favorite anime, cartoon, book, etc... but what does it all matter if the casting for the characters aren't accurate or even close to what they know and love? This is all too common nowadays. Major movies roles meant for people of color are being given to the literal opposite people. Movie makers alike are failing to recognize just how important it is to properly represent certain characters; it's not just for the die-hard fans, but the general integrity of it all.

In the making right now is a film adaptation of 1989 Japanese manga series Ghost in the Shell.

Understandably many are outraged at the fact that Scarlett Johansson is portraying the main character, who is Japanese, Motoko Kusanagi. Not only does that completely westernize Ghost in the Shell, but it eliminates its core basis and the chance to see any of the many talented and underrated Asian actresses take on the role. The scary part is that this instance of white-washing is just one of the many that is in the works, because I'm sure Hollywood has more plans with this tactic. White-washing feeds into the oblivion we should want to avoid, especially because of the constant culture erasure and appropriation that isn't addressed by the people watching it and by bigger media platforms reviewing it.

Although there are countless others, an important example that is very blatantly erasing an important character is the casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, Indian princess, in the 2015 movie Pan.

This doesn't just tie into the very true necessity of reinforcement in the movie industry. Older audiences should want to understand what they're viewing, so clarification and proper presentation is vital. Children, however, are not aware of the process of a movie, just the fact that what they're watching is the official thing. If a child familiar with Peter Pan is to see this recreation with the very clear attempt of white-washing, they're only going to understand that what they thought they knew from the story isn't the "real" thing, this movie they're watching is.

Children absorb everything, little girls around the world who identified with Tiger Lily might lose that sense of comfort they had with knowing that she was Indian and a princess, because suddenly they didn't look like her. They don't see themselves in that empowering light anymore, which is SO important to a child's self-esteem.

There need to be more movies made that show our young audiences and children that it's possible to be powerful, beautiful, intelligent, significant... and a person of color all at once. We need them to see themselves in the positive light of these characters to change their perspective and possibly inspire them to create something bigger than themselves. We need that positive reinforcement.

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